> Starting Your Own Website - In a Nutshell   mmm nuts!

Welcome to my step-by-step guide to setting up your own website. On this page I will try to explain the process you should take in order to set-up your own website like this one. Really it's not that hard at all, you just need to be aware of a few different things. I have written this guide as a foundation to get you started, I hope that you will find it useful.


The topics I will be covering in this guide are:-


1. Buying a Domain Name and Setting up Web Hosting

1.1 Domain Names

1.2 Web Hosting

2. Webpage Design, Website Layout and Page Optimisation

2.1 Webpage Design

2.2 General Layout of Website

2.3 Page Optimisation

3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

3.1 On-Page SEO

3.1.1 Title Tag

3.1.2 Description META Tag

3.1.3 Keywords META Tag

3.1.4 Keyword Density in Body Text

3.1.5 Keywords in H1, H2 and H3 Tags

3.2 Off-Page SEO

3.2.1 In-Bound Links (IBL's)

3.2.2 Googles PageRank™ Technology

3.2.3 Web Directories and Search Engines

3.2.4 Link Exchange Programmes

3.2.5 Forums, Blogs and Article Writing

3.3 SEO Do's and Don'ts

4. FTP'ing Your Pages to Your Hosting Server

5. Resources and Links


So let's get started shall we..



1. Buying a Domain Name and Setting up Web Hosting


1.1 Domain Names


The first thing you need to do is decide on a suitable domain name for your site. For a personal website it is the best option to find a suitable domain name that consists of both your first and last name as this will bear significance later on when people are searching for your name on search engines. For example if your name is John Smith your best option would be to search for availability of the domain:


"johnsmith" or "john-smith"


A way you can easily check for availability of your chosen domain is to go to a site like www.allwhois.com and do a search. This will enable you to see what types of domains are available for purchase with that name. Current extension options for domains are:-


.com, .co.uk, .net, .org, .info, .tv, .biz, .org.uk, .me.uk and .eu


You need to decide which extension you would like for your domain name from the list above. If your set on getting a .com and your name is a common one, you may find that most of the domains have already been taken, in which case you may need to try searching with different variations of your name. For this example we could try:- "jonsmith" or "jon-smith" or "jonnysmith" or "jonny-smith".

Once you have decided on your domain name and extension (.coms, .nets and.co.uk's are the most popular) you can make a note of it ready for the next step.


1.2 Web Hosting


What is hosting?

Hosting is the server on the internet that will contain your webpages and make them available for browsing 24/7. A server is simply a PC with a large hard drive that will contain webpages from 1000's of different websites. In order for your site to go live on the internet your domain name needs to be registered and pointed towards the servers that your webpages are hosted on. The simplest way to achieve this is to buy your domain name and hosting at the same time. This will make things a whole lot simpler and quicker to process.

When you are deciding on hosting there are usually many different options available. For an average personal website you shouldn't need any more than 200MB of disk space on the server and depending on how popular your site becomes I doubt you'd need any more than 500MB of bandwidth per month. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term "bandwidth" it's the amount of data that will be downloaded from the server by people that are browsing your site.

I've been hosted with a UK based company called DC-Hosting for the last 5 years and I would highly recommend their services. They offer several different hosting options, their service is very reliable and the technical support is exceptional. You can buy your domain name and hosting with them at the same time. If however you already have a domain name bought from somewhere else, you will need to get it transferred and pointed to the servers of your hosting. This process should be explained on the website where you bought the domain. It usually involves transferring the domain over to the new hosting company.

On completion of buying your domain name and hosting, your hosting company will supply you with the credentials that you will need to log into your website on the hosting server. This will be covered later in this guide, but for now we can assume that you have a registered domain name and that it is pointed towards your hosting servers.



2. Webpage Design, Website Layout and Page Optimisation


2.1 Webpage Design


There are several different programs available for designing your webpages. You can go for a simple program and use something like MS Frontpage, but if you are serious about designing a quality website I would recommend going all out and buying Macromedia products (now owned by Adobe), including at least Dreamweaver 8 and Fireworks 8. With these two programs alone you will be able to produce high quality websites.

In this guide I am not going to go into detail about the exact way your should design your webpages as that is something that only you can decide, however when designing your page or site you should take into consideration the following factors.


a) Target Audience - "who do I want this webpage to appeal to?"

b) Content - "What unique content can I provide the target audience?"

c) Link structure - "How does my page link to other pages in my website, Is it easy to find?"

d) Layout - "Is the page easy to follow, can users easily navigate to other parts of the page?"

e) Styles - "Can I use a Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for my site so that I can control the styles of all my pages from one .css document?"


2.2 General Layout of Website


As a general rule it is not advisable to have any page of the site more than 2 clicks away from the homepage. This makes your site easy to navigate, not only for people browsing but also for search engine bots that crawl your site, more on this later.

It is also a good idea to have your navigational menu of links on each page of your website so that users can easily jump from one page to any other. If you have your links only on your homepage it means that people have to continually hit the back button to go back to the homepage before they can visit any other pages on your site.

There are several different options for navigation of your site, you can use frames, image maps, graphical icons or simple text links. The advantages and disadvantages of these methods will be talked about later in the search engines section.

You should try to make an interesting site, include personal information, photos and pages about your other interests. Remember content is KING!


2.3 Page Optimisation


Page optimisation is all about keeping the size of the page down to a minimum. Remember that not everybody will have a broadband connection. There are still a great deal of internet users that only have a dial-up 56k connection so you should try to keep these people in mind when designing your webpages.

For example, by having large images on your pages means that users on dial-up may have to wait ages for them to load up in their browsers. It is advisable to have smaller images on the site that link to the bigger image. Also if you are using high resolution images you might want to consider resizing them to a more appropriate resolution, for example 800x600.

Another point to mention is compression, with JPEG images it is possible to compress the image and therefore the effective file sizes. A 20% compression for example can gain significant reductions in file size without compromising too much on the image quality.

You should also make sure that all of the links work on your pages - broken links are not only unprofessional but they will mean that users can't navigate to that page and neither can search engine spiders.



3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)


Search engine optimisation or SEO as it's most commonly referred, is all about optimising your pages for search engine indexing or inclusion. It's about making your pages search engine friendly, so you can get all your pages indexed easily. It is also about optimising them for the search engines rankings pages (SERP's) for certain search queries.

Currently the 3 main search engine players in order of popularity are: Google, Yahoo and MSN search. If you are to expose your site you will need to try and get listed in all three of these search engines. Another important player is the ODP, which is the Open Directory Project, this is a human edited directory. It is significant because if you get listed here then it's almost a certainty that you will become listed in the other 3 as they all import links from this directory.


3.1. On-Page SEO


The term on-page SEO refers to the factors that we can change on the page to give the page a higher ranking in the SERP's or to just get it indexed in the first place. The term used to describe the computer that visits your site is the search engine BOT, spider or crawler. The spider can only read plain text and will read everything on your page as text, your images will just be a <img src> tag to the spider and it is for this reason that it is not recommended to use images to link to other pages of your site. Ideally you should use a clean text link with relevant anchor text to the page you are linking to, so for example if I am linking to my guestbook page, my anchor text (which is the text you click to get to the page) should be something like "Guestbook" or "My Guestbook". Remember to keep it short and relevant to the pages content that you are linking to.

By creating clean keyword orientated textual links, the spider will be able to follow or "crawl" all of the pages of your site easily and hopefully index them all. There are some reasons why your pages might not get indexed, I will come to these later in Do's and Don't section.

Next here are some pointers on what you should do to optimise each page of your website. For this section I am going to assume that we are targeting the keywords "John Smith". e.g. We would like our site to appear in the search engine results if we type "John Smith" into the search box and click search!


3.1.1 Title Tag - HOT!


The title tag should contain your keyword(s). You should write a title consisting of 10-60 characters maximum and don't use any special characters. It is best to keep your title tag as short and relevant as possible, in this example the title tag should read something like this:-


<title>John Smith - My Personal Website</title>


3.1.2 Description META Tag


The description META tag will not effect your ranking in the SERP's but it will provide a description for the listing. You should try to keep the description to less that 140 characters maximum and keep it clear and concise. An example for John Smith's website could be:-


<meta name="description" content="The personal website of John Smith from London, UK. Contains personal information, photos and cv"/>


3.1.3 Keywords META Tag


In the keywords tag you should list all the relevant keywords that appear on your page and separate them all with a comma. You must make sure that every word in this tag appear somewhere in the body text of your page. If not, you could be penalised for irrelevancy. No single word should appear more than twice in the keywords. If so, it could be considered spam. Google no longer values this tag for their assessment of your pages, but others SE's still do so.


<meta name="keywords" content="john, smith, john smith, website, personal, information, about, london"/>


3.1.4 Keyword Density in Body Text


Body text is the main content on your page and keyword density is the number of keywords present in the body text of your document compared to the total number of words on the page. You should aim to get a keyword density of 5-20% for all keywords. That is for every 100 words you should aim to make 5-20 of them keywords. This will aid ranking higher in the SERPS for your specified keyword(s). In this case we should aim to include our keyword "John Smith" as much as we can on the page without being too spammy. If we put them everywhere on the page there is a chance we may get penalised for a spammy page. For individual keywords we should aim for about 6% keyword density, so 6 x "John Smith" in every 100 words.


3.1.5 Keywords in H1, H2 and H3 Tags - HOT!


You should make use of the heading tags H1, H2 & H3. Using any more of these won't necessarily help you any more for ranking purposes. You want your keywords preferably in an H1 tag at the top of the page.


<H1>John Smith's Personal Website</H1>


Use H2's and H3's for further subheadings.


3.2 Off-Page SEO


As the name suggests off-page SEO is concerned with all the things that you can do elsewhere on the net to get your pages recognised and listed high up in the SERP's of the search engines (SE's).


3.2.1 In-Bound Links (IBL's)


In-bound links are fundamental to the way the world wide web works as a whole. For your webpage to even get crawled by a search engine spider you must have at least 1 in-bound link. To rank highly in the SERP's you must try to obtain as many IBL's as possible from quality sites of a similar nature. To rank highly for your targeted keywords in SE's your IBL's should contain your keywords in the anchor text.


3.2.2 Googles PageRank™ Technology


As most people tend to use Google as their preferred SE I am going to talk about their PageRank™ system.

Googles official definition of this is:-

"PageRank™ relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."

In simple terms your page will be valued more if you have lots of links from quality sites, for example if you own a computer website and Microsoft links to your page, the page that Microsoft is linking to will be assigned a higher PageRank™. PageRank™ works on a scale of 1 - 10. New sites will start off with a PageRank™ of 0 which will increase over time when in-bound links are gradually built up. Google in particular favours older links, the longer you can keep a link it is assumed, that the site linking is more stable and trustworthy.

In order to see the PageRank™ value assigned for any page, you can download and install the google toolbar. The PageRank™ of the page is displayed in the green bar. By hovering over this bar with the mouse the integer value from 0 - 10 will be displayed.


Google Toolbar (with PageRank™ displayed)


Because of the nature of PageRank™ by linking to another site from yours, you effectively pass on some PR to the site to which you are linking. To avoid leaking PR to other sites Google has introduce the rel="external nofollow" attibute that you can add to your links to prevent the site from obtaining anymore PR from your link.


<a href="http://www.anothersite.com" rel="external nofollow" />


This tells the GoogleBot when it crawls your site that the link is an external one and that your link should not contribute to the PR of the page being linked to. For example if I have a PR7 webpage and I make a link on it to another site without using the nofollow attribute, that one link will automatically make the website I'm linking to a PR5 and it's popularity will soar. If I have added a link to a bad website by mistake, like a link farm, then my own site will become penalised for the error and my own site will suffer a drop in PR value.


3.2.3 Web Directories and Search Engines


By submitting your site to the relevant category within web directories you are bound to get internet traffic and get found by the big search engines. Some directories and search engines offer free URL submission, where you can enter the URL of your main page. It is worth submitting your site if they offer a free URL submission, but only submit it once as you will be penalised if you keep submitting time and time again. Remember patience is the key, it could take up to 6 months before they crawl your URL. In all honesty you will get found much quicker if you concentrate on building high quality IBL's.

There are also directories like Yahoo directory for example where you can pay for inclusion in the index. If your a commercial site then this is an option, but if we are talking about a personal website then $200 for paid inclusion is a bit overkill if you ask me. There are plenty of free directories available on the web, your should try to find these and submit to as many of them as possible.

As I mentioned earlier you should aim to get your site included in the Open Directory Project. Visit their site and make sure your site conforms to their guidelines before you submit. Submit only once and be prepared for a long wait. They have strict guidelines so there is a high chance that you won't be included, but by following their guidelines closely you can give yourself a better chance for inclusion.


3.2.4 Link Exchange Programmes


There are many sites which now offer link exchange programmes, whereby you can register and effectively exchange links with other sites. This is a good idea but only if you are exchanging links with other sites of the same type as your own, but beware, trading links with non-related sites can get you penalised and effect your ranking in the SERP's. Choose link exchanges carefully and wisely.

There are also sites and people that sell links from sites that have a high PageRank™, I have seen it on Ebay. Usually they offer a 30 day listing of your link on their high PR website. Things to remember though, after 30 day's your link is removed, so you are back where you started. Also the website will usually be off-topic to your own. I would not advise buying links from such people that are only interesting in making a quick buck as the gains from doing so are only short-term.


3.2.5 Forums, Blogs and Article Writing


One way to expose your site is to link to it in forum posts. Find a forum relevant to the content of your site and post messages on that forum. You should set-up a signature so that your link will get posted on every single reply or thread that you post and thus maximise exposure to the public and SE's.

Another similar way is to comment on blogs, much like forums there is often an option to leave a comment on a blog article. You should only leave comments which are relevant to the article. Don't just spam the comments with rubbish as they are usually moderated and your comment will be removed and you will get a bad reputation. Not wise!

Article writing is another great way to get your site noticed. Write a good quality article on something and post it on an article website. Remember to leave a link at the bottom of the article to your websites URL. Submit original content, e.g. don't just steal or copy someone else's work - it is not professional and it is not fair!


3.3 SEO Do's and Don'ts


Do DO include a unique title, META description and keywords tag for each page of your site.

Do DO focus on building up unique quality content on your site. Content is King!

Do DO focus on building up in-bound links from high quality similar-natured sites.

Do DO use a "robots.txt" file to tell SE bot's which parts of your site to exclude from crawling.

Do DO check your pages for broken links and validate them against the W3C schema. Be professional!

Do DO submit your site (once only) to the relevant category of web directories, especially the ODP.

Do DO sign up for Google's webmaster tools and create and upload a sitemap for your site.

Do DO use rel="external nofollow" on all your external links that you don't want to gain PR.

Do DO be very patient, patience is the key!


Don't DON'T make spammy pages with your keywords plastered everywhere, search engine spiders are clever and can work out if your keyword density is out of the normal range.

Don't DON'T use frames for navigation. Some search engine spiders can crawl frames but most of them can't so stick to simple text link navigation.

Don't DON'T use hidden text that is the same colour as the background to bump up keyword density. If you get caught doing this you will be penalised.

Don't DON'T link to link farms, illegal websites or other websites generally considered as bad neighbourhoods. This will have an adverse affect on your own sites ranking. Try to only link to sites that are quality and seem trustworthy, check the sites PR before linking to it!

Don't DON'T spam on forums and blogs with garbage comments just to get backlinks.

Don't DON'T use so called "Black Hat" SEO techniques such as cloaking, which is showing the search engine one page and the user another in order to gain higher rankings in the SERP's.


So just to sum up this section on SEO

Concentrate on building quality pages with rich content, include a relevant title tag and META description tags for each page. Include your keywords in the body text of the page and use header tags for headings. Validate your pages to check for correct markup syntax, check for broken links and also optimise any webgraphics on the site. When your happy you've got all that right, submit to web directories and work on building up quality in-bound related links to the page with relevant keywords used in the anchor text.

However, before you can start submitting to directories and building in-bound links you will need to get your site live on the net. Here's how....



4. FTP'ing Your Pages to Your Hosting Server


So you have written content rich webpages, completed your optimisation and the linking structure for your site. You are now ready to get these pages uploaded onto your web server and get them live on the internet! So how do you do that exactly?

Well, the answer to the question is FTP. FTP stands for 'File Transfer Protocol' and it is a method for transfer of files from your own computer to the web server. Again, there are several programs available for doing this, I would recommend using either SmartFTP or WS_FTP both of which are high quality programs.

After loading up your FTP program of choice you will usually be presented with an option to create a new profile. At this point you should go ahead and create one. Your hosting company will have provided you with the relevant credentials that usually consist of an FTP path, something like "ftp.yourdomain.co.uk" and a username and password login. Simply enter these into the relevant fields of your profile and save it. Now it should be a simple case of clicking 'connect' to get connected to your web server. If you have problems consult the help documentation of your chosen FTP program or your hosting website.

When connected you should be able to see a folder which is probably named the same as your domain. This folder will be your root directory. You should place all your files and sub directories within this folder. You should also have a home page which is named either index.html, index.asp, default.html or default.asp. This is important as your site will not appear otherwise when your domain name is typed into the browser address bar.

That's It! If you have created your site following recommended guidelines and uploaded it correctly to the web server. then when you type in your domain name into your browser your site should flash up on the screen. Your site is now 'on-line'.

Well Done!! You can now go and get yourself a drink to celebrate!!


This article was written on 12/12/06 by Matt Ward from www.mattward.co.uk If you found this guide useful please share the link to this page from your own website or blog. Thanks a lot!


5. Resources and Links


You should consult the following links for further information on some of the topics covered in this guide.


PageRank Explained

Robots.txt File Explained

Domain Names and Hosting

Website Design Programs

Google Engineer Matt Cutt's Blog

Google Webmaster Tools

List of FREE Directories

Open Directory Project

SmartFTP Program

Webpage Validation

Webmaster Forums


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